Airports have become an adventure in awkwardness ever since 9/11. Longer lines and requirements insisting removal of just about everything into a bin except your pants and shirt have been in place ever since. Things also got wilder traveling with a prosthetic leg as well. Last summer alone I traveled through
Costa Rica, , and over twenty of the states after graduating college with my degree in prosthetics. I got to see the good, the bad, and the ugly of airport security around the Spain . US
Most airports have a special line for people with disabilities. This works out nicely because these lines are usually staffed appropriately and have male and female assists waiting to assist with the screening process. Sometimes this line can be a disaster when it is combined with the “family with kids” section and then you have all of the strollers and screaming toddlers to deal with as well.
After removing all of the contents of your pockets, belts, and jewelry you will be asked to go through the metal detector despite the fact that you will set it off every time! I think they just want to “make sure” that your leg is really fake and made of metal instead of possibly being real by some amazing congenital anomaly. You have the right to keep your shoes on for this process, because they are going to screen you heavily anyways and taking off shoes is cumbersome and could cause you to walk unevenly or different. I personally always wear shorts to the airport so that all staff knows I am an amputee and can act accordingly. I also always carry on my bags (I don’t trust checking my climbing or running legs) and by wearing shorts the person screening the bag can usually get the hint that there are prosthetic components in the bag, instead of glancing at the screen with a confused look and then asking me to open my bag.
The screening process can be simple at some airports and difficultly involved at others. In a best case scenario somebody is available right away to pat you down and swab your socket, leg, and shoe for traces of explosives. If you get lucky this is all the airport staff will do.
In a worst case scenario they will not have an assistant on hand, or that person will be on break, at which point you will stand around and be shifted from place to place aimlessly until somebody who is competent can assist you. They will proceed to do the above screening procedure along with asking to X-ray your leg. They will escort you to a private screening room to which they never have the key readily available, and after another twenty minutes your nightmare will be over.
You should not be required to take off your leg under any circumstances. The best thing to do while traveling is to just expect the worst and give yourself enough time to catch you plane so that during your 10-45 minute security process you can stay calm and relaxed to just go with the flow.
In Europe they are much less stringent, often times not even bothering to check out the leg (unless you are flying back to the US).
I do have a favorite airport story. I was helping campers get to their plane from ACA Youth Camp last summer and got paired up with a little boy who was about eight. He was really sassy that morning (and always) to say the least and while going through security said “What the hell do you think? That I have a bomb in there?” followed by “You are lucky that I am not carrying my pocket knife with me today” among other things. He then proceeded to take off his leg without prompting and throw it through the X-ray machine.
Anyways those are some of my experiences, what are some of your best stories? Any thoughts on traveling? Leave some comments!
I am at the ACA conference, check back for some updates soon!